Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Toshikoshi Soba 2013

It is a tradition here at VAOJ to document the purchase of toshikoshi soba ("end of the year soba noodles") on New Year's Eve (2011, 2012). This year is no exception. I got to the local shop even earlier this year and was able to get my noodles and all the fixings (soup, shrimp tempura, beef, dried tofu) with no trouble. The shop is popular and has a steady stream of customers from morning to evening. As I bought the soba the shop clerk recognized me: "You're the one who takes pictures every year..." Another customer asked if the shop would still be selling soba later in the evening. The clerk said that most likely they would be sold out by then. So the customer got on his cell phone to consult with his wife about what to buy. Research pays off.

Thanks to all of my students, colleagues and VAOJ readers for all of their efforts in 2013. And thanks everyone at the soba shop for letting me take their photos every year - and for the great soba! 良いお年を!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's never too late for good news: Ishikari City in Hokkaido has passed an ordinance recognizing Japanese Sign Language

VAOJ apologizes for the late reporting...

Earlier this month Ishikari City in Hokkaido passed the second ordinance in Japan that recognizes and supports the use of Japanese Sign Language. The ordinance is similar to the one passed recently in Tottori prefecture. Part of Ishikari's ordinance also mandates written Japanese be used in social welfare matters for those deaf people who don't use sign language. It is encouraging that information about the nature of sign language and deaf people is spreading. Let's hope for more similar ordinances soon.

Source (Mainichi Shimbun in Japanese): http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20131216k0000m040065000c.html

Friday, December 13, 2013

"Fake" Sign Language Interpreter Update: 'We made error over Nelson Mandela sign language interpreter – government'

The "fake" sign language interpreter at the Mandela memorial has been all over the news. This morning on Fuji Television's Tokudane show there was extensive coverage, including an interview with Deaf linguist Soya Mori.

Here's the latest on the South African government response to complaints about the "fake" (from The Guardian, 12/12/13):

The South African government has admitted that the sign language interpreter accused of gesticulating nonsense during the Nelson Mandela memorial service lacked qualifications and that the company who supplied him had a history of substandard services and in this instance, "cheating".

Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the deputy minister for women, children and people with disabilities, conceded a mistake had been made, but denied that Thamsanqa Jantjie was a fraud and refused to rule out employing him again.

"It was bad. Was he a fake? No. Does he have the training? He has only the introduction to the training. That's like a lot of South Africans," Bogopane-Zulu said.

"It is the first time I've seen complaints come to my office from the deaf community about him. It was the first time yesterday that the deaf community had brought it to my attention."

Millions of TV viewers saw Jantjie, 34, interpreting speeches by Barack Obama and other global leaders at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg. His gestures baffled and angered deaf people around the world, with experts saying he did not know even basic signs such as "thank you" or "Mandela".

The African National Congress, having previously pleaded ignorance, said on Thursday that it had used Jantjie's services over the years, but was not involved in the organisation of the memorial service, and was therefore "not in a position to offer a view on how his services were secured by the government".

Jantjie claimed on Thursday that he is qualified but was hallucinating and hearing voices during the service, and that he is receiving treatment for schizophrenia.

"There was nothing I could do," Jantjie told South Africa's Star newspaper on Thursday. "I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry. It's the situation I found myself in."

Jantjie said his episode meant he was seeing things and hearing loud voices in his head, impairing his ability to hear and interpret the speeches. But he could not leave so he persevered. "Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn't understand this illness will think that I'm just making this up."

He did not know what triggered the attack, he added, saying he took medication for his schizophrenia.

Bogopane-Zulu argued that South African sign language had more than 100 dialects, making it impossible to be understood by everyone. "Unless there's something I'm missing, I don't think we as a country should say we're embarrassed. The issue of sign language has always been about where you live, what school you go to and what language you speak."

Pressed on whether South Africa should be embarrassed, she insisted: "I don't think it's the right choice of word. I don't think he was just picked up from the street. He went to a school for the deaf; I went to a school for the deaf."

Jantjie's first language is Xhosa, one of 11 official languages in South Africa, the minister continued. She said: "He was not able to translate from English to Xhosa to sign language. He started well and then in the middle he got tired and lost concentration. That did not mean he is a bad sign language interpreter."

Asked if anyone understood Jantjie's gestures at the memorial, she said only: "We will find someone who understands him, who requested his services, but we're not going to do it now."

Another interpreter at the event was similarly unable to participate when host Cyril Ramaphosa spoke in the Zulu language, Bogopane-Zulu said. She also said South Africa was well ahead of many other countries in providing sign language services for presidential speeches.

She admitted, however, that SA Interpreters, the company that provided Jantjie, had a poor record and had now "vanished into thin air. Over the years they have been getting away with this. They have been providing substandard services to clients. The company has been in existence for a while but it looks like they have been cheating."

Whereas the standard fee for an interpreter is 1,300 to 1,700 rand (£76-£100) a day, she noted, Jantjie was being paid just 800 rand a day.

She denied Jantjie had been a security risk and declined to comment on his state of mind. "I don't think it will get us anywhere to get into his health, his violence, his schizophrenia. I don't think other service providers or journalists there on the day had their health profiles discussed."

An investigation was ongoing, Bogopane-Zulu added. "Will we invite him to big national events in future? It's not for me to stand here and say yes or no."

One journalist asked if Jantjie would be "brought to justice". Bogopane-Zulu replied: "Why? What crime has he committed? Why should he be brought to justice? Yes, he did not sign as well as expected, but what crime has he committed?"

Bogopane-Zulu reiterated that sign language in South Africa lacked a universal standard and was the subject of disagreement among academics. "There is a battle between black and white sign language people. Urban and rural. Whose slang takes priority? What unit should be used to measure it?"

On Wednesday South Africa's leading deaf association denounced Jantjie as a fake, saying he was inventing signs, and described the episode as an insult to deaf people and Mandela himself.

Asked in a radio interview how he felt about being the centre of such scrutiny, Jantjie said: "It is very sad at this present moment because I believe that it was an issue that had to be dealt with earlier. If the Deaf Federation of South Africa have an issue with my interpreting it was supposed to be in clarity a long time ago, not during this crucial time for our country."

He added: "If I interpreted wrong, why is it an issue now? Why wasn't it an issue when I was doing interpretation at MaSisulu's funeral and many big events in South Africa?"

Jantjie claimed he worked for a company called "SA Interpreters" and when asked if he has a formal qualification, he replied: "Yes, absolutely."

The controversy has marred South Africa's 10-day farewell to Mandela, whose remains were lying in state for a second day on Thursday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was sworn in as the nation's first black president in 1994.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/12/nelson-mandela-sign-language-interpreter-error-south-africa-government

Check out the other Guardian links at the end of the story, especially "The Mandela sign interpreter has done deaf people a favour"

Poor quality sign language interpreting is a common problem. I hope the media focus on Thamsanqa Jantjie goes some way to solve it.

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/12/nelson-mandela-sign-language-interpreter-deaf-people-antjie

Thursday, December 12, 2013

OUTRAGE: Interpreter at Mandela memorial a fake

I watched part of the Nelson Mandela memorial on CNN and was pleased to see a sign language interpreter right next to the speakers. Since I am not familiar with South African Sign Language I did not really examine the interpreter in any detail. Then the news broke out from several sources that the interpreter was a fake. WTF? Who would do such a thing? Why would someone do such a thing? And how could this happen at the Mandela memorial?

I am assuming that most readers have already read this story or have seen it on the TV news (if not check out the source links below). It's final exam week here at my university and I am in the middle of grading student essays from my Deaf World Japan course. I want to post a few quotes from various sources that seem especially relevant and important as the course draws to a close:

The sign language interpreter at Tuesday's memorial service in Johannesburg for Nelson Mandela may have appeared to have been translating spoken words into gestures during the four hours he appeared on television screens around the world, but he was a fake, observers said Wednesday. (CNN)

Four hours? Interpreters usually need to switch off every 15-20 minutes.

UK deaf news blog The Limping Chicken said the sign language interpreter had a "strange repetitive rhythm to his movements", and "the structure of his hand and body movements didn't seem to change no matter what the speaker was saying"... Blog editor Charlie Swinbourne said the man "made a mockery of our language". (BBC)

The man showed no facial expressions, which are key in South African sign language, and his hand signals were meaningless... (CNN)

I constantly preach about the importance of facial expression in sign language. Here's more proof.

Though each country has its own sign language, all of them entail facial expressions, she [a sign language expert] said. She called his lack of facial expression "a giveaway." (CNN)

...[I]n a statement, the government said it "wishes to assure South Africans that we are clear in defending the rights and dignity of people with disabilities". (BBC)

How is this a disability issue? Isn't this a language interpretation issue? Imagine if a English interpreter was voicing some gobbledygook rather than the real interpretation.

"I knew exactly... that he wasn't authentic at all, and it was offensive; it was offensive to me." (CNN)

If the accusations that the man was a "fake" turn out to be true, "on a day when the world saluted a man who fought oppression, a guy stood on stage and effectively oppressed another minority - deaf people", Mr Swinbourne wrote. (BBC)

This is yet another example of how deaf people are denied the right to information.

Japan Today covered the story as well with readers leaving comments. Here are some examples that illustrate a lack of knowledge and/or sensitivity about deaf people:

Sign language seems to be a secret language which no one can understand.

That was enough for me. I knew what he tried to say.

If a complaint is made and no one is around to hear it, is there an issue?

I couldn't help but laugh at this, I might go to hell for this, but admit it, it is quite funny.

I think that is the problem- rather than even try to get an interpreter the countries are faking it and expecting people not to care - i guess they feel being hearing impaired means there is a learning impairment as well - right?

That's HYSTERICAL ( sorry deaf people ).

Saw this on TV. As I can't read sign language, I can only say that this dude seemed to know what he was doing. Now that I know he's fake ... it is funny to watch him in action.

Let's hope we find out more about this fake interpreter and that this will be an opportunity for people to learn more about deaf people and sign languages.


CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/11/world/africa/mandela-memorial-fake-intepreter/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25330672

Japan Today: http://www.japantoday.com/category/world/view/sign-language-interpreter-at-mandela-memorial-a-fake

UPDATE: 'Fake' sign language interpreter at Mandela memorial claims it was 'schizophrenic episode'

Story from The Telegraph, 12/12/13:

The "fake" sign language interpreter at the Nelson Mandela memorial service has claimed he suffered a schizophrenic episode on stage that left him unable to do his job properly

The man, named as local media as Thamsanqa Jantjie, said he is unsure whether it was the magnitude of what he was doing or the happiness he felt throughout the day that might have triggered the attack.

“There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry, it’s the situation I found myself in," he told the Johannesburg Star.

Mr Jantjie said that during his episode, he continued seeing things and hearing loud voices in his head that impaired his ability to hear well and interpret what was being said.

He told the newspaper that he could not leave, so stayed on and continued to sign things that did not make sense.

Read the whole story: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/nelson-mandela/10512672/Fake-sign-language-interpreter-at-Mandela-memorial-claims-it-was-schizophrenic-episode.html

Here's another interesting source (ABC) that shows video of the "fake" alongside video of the sign language interpreter used on TV by the South African Broadcasting Corporation:

Nelson Mandela memorial 'fake' sign language controversy: who's the man in the suit?

Link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-12/nelson-mandela-memorial-fake-impersonator-in-gifs/5152014

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Visual Anthropology of Japan Fall Photo Exhibition

The VAOJ Fall Photo Exhibition at Kansai Gaidai University features both print and digital formats in two locations. Check out the prints in the CIE first floor lounge and the the digital show in CIE Room 3208 (along with the Asian Studies Program Student Ceramics and Manga Exhibitions). There are a wide range of subjects and lots of interesting photographs.

Project titles and artists:

Purikura by Emma Fukuyama
Bringing Art to Life by Cody Alexander Golden
Makeup by Rina Hamada
Why Do We Pierce? by Sayaka Higshine
A Flood of Katakana by Haruka Ichihashi
Nekohoudai by Zoë Madonna
“Yūjo” by Chelsea Pinneke
Hello Kitty Everything and Anything? by Jake Reynolds
日本のカスタムカー by Jesse Sherriff
灯籠 Lanterns of Japan by Kyle Sine
What is Kawaii for Japanese Girls? by Saori Tsuge

Free and open to all!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Japan in Depth / HIV check system needs improvement"

From The Japan News, 12/2/13:

It has become imperative to improve checks for human immunodeficiency virus, including those on blood donations, following the discovery of the virus in donated blood that was used in transfusions.

About 1,500 people a year develop AIDS or are newly infected with HIV in Japan. As it is possible to prevent the development of HIV into AIDS if the virus is detected early, HIV checks are crucial.

In the latest case, one of two people who received transfusions of the blood in question contracted HIV.

The Red Cross Society told a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry panel on activities involving blood products that it does not conduct blood donations to check for HIV and does not notify donors of infection, in principle, if found.

The Red Cross Society emphasized this at a meeting of the panel of the ministry’s Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council held on Tuesday. “There are people who donate blood in the belief that they will be notified if the result is positive,” an official of the society said.

Among about 5 million blood donations per year, 60 to 100 are found to be HIV positive, and are consequently disposed of.

The government recommends people take the tests at public health centers and local governments anonymously and at no charge. However, many checks can only be taken during the day on weekdays.

Ichiro Itoda, director of Shirakaba Clinic in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, which provides such tests, as well as treatment for people infected with HIV, said, “Unless people can receive the checks in the evening and on weekends and holidays, and do so at local clinics, the number of blood donations checked for HIV will not decrease.”

The number of HIV checks conducted by public health centers and other conventional sites since 2010 has fallen by about 50,000 to 130,000 a year.

However, the number of people who take HIV tests offered by private institutions by mail has been rapidly increasing.

According to research by a team of Keio University researchers led by Shingo Kato, a junior associate professor of the university, there were 65,000 private-sector HIV checks last year.

For the test, which costs several thousand yen, users take blood samples at home and send them to companies that then conduct the checks. The results can be accessed, for instance, through a password-protected Web portal.

Gunma Medical Examination (GME), a medical institution in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, tests more than 10,000 samples a year. An official of the organization said applications for the tests have tripled since Tuesday, when it was revealed that HIV-tainted blood had passed through the checks.

According to GME, three or four samples a year are found to be HIV positive through its tests. Officials said they recommended people found to be HIV positive take a test to confirm the result at a medical institution. GME does not conduct follow-up research analyses.

Prof. Aikichi Iwamoto of the Institute of Medical Science of the University of Tokyo, also chairman of the health ministry’s AIDS Trend Committee, said, “While it’s desirable to increase the options for receiving the checks, infected people need to be linked with medical institutions more smoothly.”

HIV infection through blood transfusions would undermine the very foundation of the blood donation system in this country.

To prevent this, the Japanese Red Cross Society is planning to raise the precision of their HIV tests on donated blood from next summer. However, it is difficult to detect the HIV virus in the blood for about 40 days after infection, as the amount is still small. Strictly speaking, there is no foolproof way to prevent infected blood from slipping in through the test.

Blood donors’ identification is verified through their driver’s license or other such documents. They are also interviewed by a doctor using a questionnaire with 23 questions, such as whether they have been abroad, whether they have donated blood before, and whether they have had sexual relations with multiple partners or other men.

Regarding the case in question, the Japanese Red Cross said the infected donor had lied on the questionnaire. In Australia, donors who make false statements on such questionnaires are penalized. However, the ministry is reluctant to introduce such penalties.

Twenty-five years ago, there were about 8 million blood donations per year in Japan. However, today the number has dwindled to about two-thirds of this figure.

An official of the Japanese Red Cross lamented the situation. “We can’t simply doubt people who come into donate their blood out of good will,” the official said.

Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000838089

Normal life with 1 pill a day (The Japan News, 12/2/13)

AIDS was first recognized in 1981 in the United States and the virus causing the disease was identified in 1983. After that, research on a treatment to prevent the virus from developing into the disease began around the world.

The past decade has seen major advances in therapies, and today’s patients can live longer without developing AIDS if the virus is strictly controlled with multiple medications. A groundbreaking pill combining various effects appeared this year, making it possible for some patients to lead normal lives by just taking one pill a day.

In a follow-up survey of 3,683 Japanese infected with the virus and AIDS patients who began receiving treatment in 2001 or later, the survival rate after eight years of treatment is higher than 95 percent.

A follow-up survey in Europe said there is almost no difference in life expectancy between HIV-infected patients who properly take their drugs and those who are not infected.

While fears of AIDS as a terminal illness may have faded, there are now fewer opportunities to educate the public in AIDS prevention compared to the 1980s and ’90s when scandals over HIV-tainted blood were a major social issue.

Aya Yamamoto, assistant chief of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s Specific Disease Control Division, said, “Education at schools may overemphasize that AIDS is no longer a fearful disease, which could result in carelessness among students.”

The ministry’s AIDS-related countermeasures, including educational activities and development of treatment systems, cost ¥5.4 billion this fiscal year.

As the figure is dropping by a few hundred million yen each year, the ministry aims to develop new ways to promote AIDS prevention, such as training courses for local government officials and strengthening cooperation with nongovernmental organizations.

Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000838457

The above article is problematic in that people might think they can simply take a pill if they develop HIV and continue to live a healthy life. This is dangerous thinking in that people might get careless and not worry so much about safe sex. Do you really want to have to take a pill for the rest of your life? Do you really want to pay for such a pill for the rest of your life?

Here's a good source of information about the realities of the global situation of HIV/AIDS - "World AIDS Day: AIDS Isn't Over"

Link: http://www.aidsfreeworld.org/Publications-Multimedia/Articles/World-AIDS-Day.aspx?utm_source=Newsletter+Peer+List&utm_campaign=77fe32d2ef-TEMPLATE_PEER_LIST12_01_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_349f52eb1e-77fe32d2ef-65518773

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"NHK ordered to pay damages to indigenous Taiwanese woman for defaming her"

From Japan Today, 11/30/13:

A Japanese court has ordered public broadcaster NHK to pay damages to an indigenous Taiwanese woman for defaming her by using the term “human zoo” in a program, officials said Friday.

Overturning a lower court ruling, the Tokyo High Court ordered NHK to pay 1 million yen to the woman, with presiding judge Noriaki Sudo reportedly saying the broadcaster used a term that had a “serious discriminatory meaning”.

The program looked at the “Japan-Britain Exhibition” held in London in 1910 to which Japan took several members of Taiwan’s aboriginal population, including the father of the woman, as exotic exhibits, Jiji Press and Kyodo News reported.

Taiwan was a Japanese colony at the time, and the practice of exhibiting the little-known peoples of far-flung territories was a common one among Western imperial powers.

Historians say Japan, which had emerged from self-imposed isolation just half a century earlier, joined in partly as an attempt to establish itself as an imperial power and mitigate the perceived risk of being colonised itself.

In the ruling, Sudo said NHK “repeatedly used the term without giving consideration to its discriminatory meaning,” which implied the people of the Paiwan—Taiwan’s indigenous population—were uncivilized, the Tokyo Shimbun reported.

Some of those who took part did so earnestly, and not as mere curiosities, the judge said, according to the paper.

In a statement sent to AFP on Friday, NHK said: “We are sorry that our argument was not taken up. We will decide how to deal with the issue after studying closely the court’s verdict.”

Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/nhk-ordered-to-pay-damages-to-indigenous-taiwanese-woman-for-defaming-her

Monday, December 2, 2013

"AIDS fatigue: a dangerous diagnosis"

To truly address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the global community must refocus its efforts on finding a cure and a vaccine.

December 01, 2013
By Warner C. Greene

Warner C. Greene is a physician and the director of virology and immunology research at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco.

From Los Angeles Times

I saw my first AIDS case in 1981, the year the disease was identified. And for most of the time since then, I've conducted laboratory research to better understand the precise mechanisms by which the virus HIV causes AIDS.

Lately, however, I've been equally worried about a related condition that is prevalent, persistent and threatens to bankrupt us. People in my world call it AIDS fatigue.

AIDS fatigue has several telltale symptoms. One is thinking that the AIDS crisis is under control. Another is believing that AIDS is someone else's problem, while still another is assuming that antiretroviral medications cure HIV/AIDS. All three notions, unfortunately, are false.

World AIDS Day on Sunday is a great opportunity to begin treating these malignant misconceptions, which we must do to address one of the most lethal pandemics ever to strike mankind. As a global community, we are not supplying — and may not even be able to afford to supply — enough of the lifesaving drugs required to prevent an HIV infection from progressing to AIDS for all the people who need them.

Our best option is to cure this disease — thereby eliminating the need to fund a lifetime of expensive medications for tens of millions of people — while also developing a vaccine to prevent new infections. And to do this, we must first treat AIDS fatigue with the only medicine known to address it: facts.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, AIDS-related illnesses have killed 36 million people, a number equal to the entire population of Canada. UNAIDS estimated recently that the rate of new infections is finally slowing. This is an excellent trend, but it's important to remember that the epidemic will continue to expand in the absence of a cure. HIV infected an additional 2.3 million people in 2012 alone.

Around the world, no one is spared. Today, nearly 1% of the adult population carries the HIV virus. It infects slightly more women than men, and more than 9% of those with the virus are children. But because more than 70% of new infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa, many Americans think of it as a distant problem. They don't seem to realize that the epidemic continues to strike close to home too.

In 2011, Los Angeles County reported 1,880 new HIV diagnoses, accounting for 38% of California's 4,950 HIV diagnoses reported in that year. And a full 43% of the 80,000 Angelenos who have contracted the virus since its discovery are now dead. Nationwide, meanwhile, the number of people living with HIV could increase as much as 38% between 2010 and 2020, costing an additional $128 billion to $237 billion in healthcare costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Indeed, those unmoved by the human suffering this disease causes might be interested to learn of the effect HIV/AIDS has on their pocketbooks. In 2010, the average U.S. lifetime HIV-treatment bill was calculated at $380,000 per person. That cost is borne by all of us through higher insurance rates and tax dollars.

Medications have saved millions of lives, but these drugs do not cure HIV/AIDS. And many who need them are not getting them. More than 20% of what the federal government spends on AIDS supports critical international programs such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The program has been highly effective in battling the epidemic in Africa. But we still live in a world in which not all those who need treatment can get it, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the pandemic is most widespread and money for treatment is scarce. For example, only 18% of HIV-positive pregnant women are being treated with crucially important antiretroviral drugs in Nigeria, home to the world's second-largest population of people with HIV.

All this points to the need for a cure. In addition to being a global cause for celebration, a cure for HIV/AIDS would eliminate the need to spend billions of dollars on lifelong, lifesaving treatments for the 35 million who are already infected.

Research to produce a vaccine or a cure isn't cheap, however. And with sequestration, government shutdowns and renewed fiscal constraints, research funds are increasingly difficult to come by. We have to remember that spending now — whether through increased government grants, insightful philanthropy or bold investments from pharmaceutical firms — will more than pay for itself down the road.

The scientific community has made tremendous strides against this disease. And a recent flurry of news reports — including stories about the so-called Berlin Patient, the Mississippi Baby, France's Visconti cohort and two Boston men whose viral load became undetectable after stem cell transplants — has given us renewed hope for a cure. But it will take a renewed commitment of research funds if we are deliver on that hope. We are unlikely to put an end to the disease if we allow AIDS fatigue to take hold.

Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/01/opinion/la-oe-greene-aids-research-20131201